52 Degrees and Rising

Trip Start Nov 05, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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What I did

Flag of Iran  ,
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"We are  People who need to love, because 
Love is the soul's life,

Love is simply creation's greatest joy."

                                     
                                                     -Hafez


When arriving to Shiraz Sasha thought he was back in India. Traffic, honking, touts speaking basic English were left, right and centre. There was plenty of cheap food available on  the streets. And it was unbearably hot. Our hotel had dirty walls, sheets that were only replaced upon request and bunks hard as rock. The price was Indian as well – 40 dollars for three nights. Once the hotel wallah learned Sasha's name he was hoping that he won't  burn Persepolis. Sasha said that he was back after more than 2300 hundred years. The hotel guy hoped we will book a taxi to that famous site with him. After thinking about it Sasha and Dasha decided to take a commercial tour. It might cost slightly more, but it was worth having a guide to bring the ruins to life.


Our first day in the city Dasha decided to take it easy and catch up on blogging. After all, our trip to Iran needed to be thoroughly documented. There was a miracle, an Internet cafe with a VPN access to blocked sites. Sasha needed to send a fax to Revenue Canada and running around to find a fax machine that worked took some of the afternoon. Luckily, a kind person that spoke English came along that offered to walk Sasha to the nearby post office and to act as a translator. Sasha was grateful for his patience and kindness. As many Iranians did before, the young man wrote his name and number and urged to call him if we ever have any problems in Shiraz or at any other place in Iran. We are already losing count of people who help us out in this country. 

While Dasha was taking a break from the heat,Sasha walked to the market and bought an umbrella. It was not the most popular item in that desert city and it took some time to find it. He got a big one. The important thing was helping Dasha to survive the next few days without shade. We left that umbrella a few days after at our friends house in Yazd for their next Couchsurfers.

Sasha hired a guide for an hour. It was worth paying someone to sneak him into a religious school producing Mullahs on graduation. That venue was officially closed to tourists. The guide knocked on the door; and a guardian opened it up. Sasha even had an opportunity to speak to a mullah. There are two types of religious scholars in Iran – one with a white headband and the  other one with a black headband. The “Blacks” descend directly from the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, while the “Whites” are ordinary graduates. A scholar was curious to know where Sasha was from, how did he like Iran and hoped he will tell the truth about that country when he goes back. 

Next day it was time to head to Persepolis for our tour. We were lucky we had a guide since the ruins were difficult to follow. The city was not an year round capital of Ancient Persia. It was only busy at the New Year when people from all over the Empire came to honour the King of Kings by bringing him offerings. Engravings portrayed warriors of Persia and Media that were a ruling class of that empire. Persian and Median uniforms took turns implying that both cultures were equal partners. Another engraving showed the Immortals, soldiers that were portrayed in Hollywood movies such as “300”. There were always ten thousands  of those elite troups; when some were killed other soldiers came forward to take their place. On murals, people from countries as diverse as India and Ethiopia were bringing gifts to the king. Indians with nude torsos were carrying spices; Ethiopians with thick lips and curly hair brought along a giraffe. It is incredible how huge the Persian empire was at that time period and how lenient they were with the conquered nations!

During our tour officials from a government TV channel were eager to interview foreigners. There were four of us: a girl from Singapore, a guy from Korea, Sasha and Dasha. For some  reason Sasha have spoken most of the time. Questions ran like this:how long have you been to Iran, is this your first time, what do you think about our country, what do people in your country think about Iran, were you affected by the sanctions, do you think sanctions are reasonable? Sasha tried to be honest and not to say good things about the government on one hand and say what they want to hear on the other hand so the interview will clear censorship. Alas, all interviews are meticulously edited on government TV before a show time, our guide Muhammad said to us. 

 There was a large group of people from all over the world wearing suits. Sasha started to speak to one of the African people. He turned out to be an ambassador of Somalia. The whole group were ambassadors from countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Iran. A Philipino ambassador was nearby, holding her umbrella, just the way Dasha did. When you are a tourist in Iran you are almost like a celebrity, Sasha and Dasha thought to themselves.

Our next stop was nearby Necropolis – a rock burial of several Persian Kings including Darius and Xerses. There were engravings underneath from the Zoroastrian era almost 800 years later. The Sassanids saw themselves as great kings that continue the Achaemenid tradition of ruling the four corners of the world. On each engraving one could recognize a king by having his head sticking out of the rectangular frame. One of the kings was given a ring of power by the Ahuramazda, the supreme God. It was easy to recognize a Zoroastrian priest by his shaved face. Up to the 3rd century AD there was no compulsion of religion. Under the Sassanids
all inhabitants of the empire were encouraged to convert to Zoroastrianism which created lots of tensions in the country and facilitated the Arab conquest several centuries later.  

Our last stop was the grave of Cyrus – a benevolent conqueror mentioned in both Bible and the Qur’an. It was very modest. Up to two months earlier there was no fencing and people could climb into the structure. Iran has so many historic sights which are sadly very poorly maintained. As our friend Russell said, the government is not interested in tourism. Every visitor is seen with suspicion by officials and embraced by ordinary people.

Our days seem to be getting hotter, but the adventures keep on going!
SD
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